Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mentors, part 2 (belatedly)

I had a post a couple of months ago about one of my mentors from school. I met today with the other person I consider to be a mentor, and felt lucky all over again to have made these peoples' acquaintance. Most people move after they get their Ph.D., but I stayed in town and so have been able to cultivate professional relationships with these folks that I continue to learn from.

This mentor, let's call him Dr. R., started his job as a research geneticist on campus right about the time I started school. We went to hear him speak as part of a plant reproduction class, and I was hooked on the work they were doing and wanted to be a plant geneticist.

I can remember one of our first meetings, where I'm sure it was obvious that I knew hardly anything about population genetics. I nodded, took lots of notes and I think "got" about 50% of what he was saying. After 8 years, I get close to 100%, I'm happy to report, and I'm still taking notes at our meetings. So much so that he commented today, "you are the most prolific note-taker I know!" To which I replied, without a hint of sarcasm (I hope), "well, you say a lot when you talk."

I imagine he's repeated some of the same things several times, but he's walked me through the subtleties of doing the various analyses one does when doing population genetics studies. What are the assumptions of the test you're using, how does this software calculate this metric, how do you interpret this value. There's still a lot to learn, but I continue to be amazed and compelled by the information that can be gleaned from DNA-based data.

The best part? He was saying how he's co-author on a grant by yet another committee member of mine, and I chimed in, "well, my contract is up in a year, so if you need any help, you know where to find me". And, to my surprise (only because money always seems to be too tight to hire new people) he said, "we're trying to get funding to hire a couple more support scientists, so keep your CV current." Sweet!

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Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.